My friend's first child was born tonight. She is a perfect soft pink bundle of limbs and cries and is strange and beautiful in the way that only new life can be. I watched with her grandparents as she was measured and prodded and wiped and swaddled. Her first moments taking place under shocking bright lights while her father stood in hospital scrubs and held her tiny hand and tried to comfort her with the gentle touch of his soft, wrinkled fingers skimming her fuzzy little head.
He is a feminist filmmaker, former member of an otherwise all girl punk band, and has been married to this tiny person's mother for 14 years. He was made to be the father to a daughter. He will be amazing at it. She will feel empowered and supported and have a unique confidence in her interactions with men that will come from the perfect security she will always know in the love of her father.
I'm incredibly happy for him and for his wife. I am in awe. I am shaken. I am joyful.
It is strange to find in myself conscious thought about something I normally don't question. But I cannot help but think about this now. Today. In this moment.
I will never be a parent. No one will ever call me mama. My uterus will always go unused, never fulfilling its biological purpose. This strange organ that can make life, can create a dizzying miracle, will labor through only the motions of it's cycle until it gives even that up altogether.
I have chosen this, so I have no justification for this odd moment of inner conflict. After 20 years of being sexually active and having never so much as a scare, I may not be able to conceive - this potential for anything else may only be an illusion to me, a sorrow I will never truly have to confront. But I had a harrowing childhood. A childhood of hurt and hollow and scars that never completely go away. The kind of childhood that seems a bit like a gothic novel or a horror story when I forget to forget it. And I have struggled in my own relationships with the several parents that have been a part of my life, and watched their struggles with the children they have raised. So by the time I was ten years of age, I had decided. I could never be a parent.
My whole life people have told me how good I would be as a mother. But the truth is I'm scattered and fragile and always rushing to catch up and never financially stable enough, never grown up enough, have never become the person I would want to be in order to have a child. And if I want to be really honest with myself, brutally honest, the men in my life have always been scattered and fragile and rushing to catch up and never financially stable enough, never grown up enough... or if they were? They didn't want a child with me.
In some quiet part of myself I imagine a version of me who is like my grandmother. She was short like me and sharp like me and gregarious like I sometimes can be. I adored her. She had one girl and five strapping boys. Clever, varied, driven, interesting men. Men who, like me, adored her but also felt like she was their friend, their ally. Men who made something of themselves. She was a force of nature and I always felt as if she willed them into full lives. I imagine that if I'd taken a different path, maybe I'd have been like her. Surrounded by sons. I'd have been good at it, I think. Wise and loving and a little bit stern and a little bit crazy. Good at holding them and good at letting them go, which seems like the trick with raising boys. And I would have been. I think. Good at it. This other me I never turned into. Never found the right man or the right moment or enough healing or enough security to let myself find out.
I was engaged years ago to a man who had a son, a wonderful man who wasn't ultimately the right man for me (both of us too scattered), and his son started to call me "mom" (His "other mom"). We bonded. We were close. I kept up with his son for a long while after I had to leave that relationship behind, but I would mourn every time I had to say goodbye to him. I would babysit him or even just run into the boy in the street with his mother - also my friend - and whenever he left I would cry like the wound was new. It was like that for years. This hollow awful ache I never expected I could feel. Didn't let myself think I might have the capacity for. A kind of broken heart I'd never before experienced, never imagined.
So I have chosen this. I know that. I think it's the right decision. I'm remarkably strong for someone who has been through so much but I would never take the risk that I'm not strong enough or healed enough to hold it together for a child. My mother took that risk with me. It didn't turn out well. I won't make the same mistake. Most days life is hard enough as it is. Recovering from so much death in the past several years. Trying to make my life stable enough just to sustain the long term romantic relationship I am in. Finding ways to fulfill my need to create art and trying to do something with my life. Some days I find even pet ownership to be a challenge. And I have (yes, if you've been around long enough, you'll know this) bunnies. Not typically considered a high stress pet.
So I'm doing the right thing. I know this. But on a day like today it hits me deep in my gut and twists a little. In there under the happiness. That I am feeling. God I am. But I need a few minutes tonight to exorcise this. To acknowledge it. That this little kernel of regret lives somewhere deep in me.
Most days impossible to find at all.
My friend has wanted to be two things in life. His whole life. A husband and a father. And he has been a husband since his very early twenties, but in many ways he was her husband before that. He knew he would never let his wife go from the moment he first kissed her roughly 17 years ago. Being the best husband and partner he could be has been his great goal in life and he's wonderful at it. He worships her still. When he plays guitar he inevitably sings to her, even if she's in another room. Even when he doesn't realize it he turns toward her so she can hear his voice. He cannot help it. His love for her is a part of everything in him. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
So I know how completely and perfectly this girl will be loved. And how fortunate she is to be born into the midst of this great love that is already there. She is so wanted. That is the best thing a child can have. She will have the devotion of two clever, creative, amazing people who are ready and prepared to give her everything. I'm excited to be around for it. To watch as it begins.
A few hours ago a new life came out of my friend's wife (who, I should say, is also my very dear friend). This is amazing to me.
I am feeling a lot of things tonight but more than anything, I am joyful. I am shaken. I am in awe.